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William Ray BONNER





Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Argument
Number of victims: 7
Date of murder: April 22, 1973
Date of arrest: Same day (injured in a shootout with police)
Date of birth: 1947
Victims profile: Diane Lore Andrea, 22, Bonner's girlfriend / Versell Bennett, 58, security guard, shot by police / Raleigh "Butch" Henderson, 33, friend of Bonner / Otha Leavitt, 53, friend of Bonner's mother / Smitty B. Sneed, 58, owner of Smitty's Drive-In Liquors / Jevie D. Thompson, 57 / Aileen Wells, 13
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: On November 13, 1973, Bonner pleaded guilty to one count each of first degree murder, second degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon and a month later, on December 17, he was sentenced to life imprisonment

William Ray Bonner was an unemployed service station attendant who, at the age of 25 years, went on a shooting spree through the South Side area of Los Angeles, California on April 22, 1973 that left a total of seven people dead and nine others wounded and ended with his arrest after he had been injured in a shootout with police.

Bonner was sentenced to life imprisonment later the same year and is currently an inmate at California State Prison in Vacaville.


Bonner was described by his neighbours and acquaintances as a nice and quiet young man who kept to himself. According to a former coworker at a gas station he never caused any trouble there, stating that, in some respects, he was one of the best. Herman English, who would later become his defense attorney and knew him for 10 years, said of Bonner that he had been a submissive, kind and easy going person, but after the shooting was "completely different mentally."

According to police files Bonner had been arrested six times since 1966 in connection with narcotics, assault and grand theft auto. In the most serious case he was sentenced to three years probation for assaulting a police officer.

Bonner's father, James A. Bonner, related to a newspaper that his son had connections to "some kind of Mafia gang" which had made threats against him and his family in the days prior to the shooting.

Shooting spree

The shooting began at Bonner's home at approximately 2:35 p.m. after he had gotten into an argument with Otha Leavitt, a friend of his mother, who had paid them a short visit to make a phone call. Enraged he went outside and, with a handgun, fired a shot each at 16-year-old Anthony Thomas and 17-year-old Carolyn Cleveland, who had accompanied Mrs. Leavitt and waited in her car. Leaving the two teenagers severely wounded Bonner returned inside and killed Otha Leavitt with a shot in the head, before hijacking her Plymouth Valiant, which by then had been vacated by Thomas and Cleveland.

Armed with his handgun and a 20-gauge shotgun Bonner drove to a gas station about 1.5 miles from his home, where he had been employed previously as a service station attendant. Arriving there at about 2:43 p.m. he approached the occupants of an Chevrolet Impala, 18-year-old Vicky Wells and her 13-year-old sister Aileen, both known to him since their early childhood. He shot Vicky in the back with his shotgun, critically wounding her and killed Aileen, also by a shot in the back, when she was running towards the service area.

Bonner then sped away to another nearby gas station, his workplace until one week prior to the shooting spree, where he arrived at 2:45 p.m. Carrying his shotgun he entered the service bay area where he called out for his friend and former colleague, Raleigh Henderson, who had helped him get the job there. When Henderson turned around Bonner shot him once in the stomach and then fired again when Henderson exclaimed "What have I done?"

Pointing at the body on the floor Bonner asked service station attendant James Morrow: "Do you know if anyone wants some of that?" He approached a female customer, fired a shot in the air and then left for the home of Jevie Thompson, with whose son, Vernon, he had an argument the night before. Bonner arrived there about 5 minutes later and killed Jevie Thompson with a shotgun blast in the stomach, and critically wounded his wife, Eddie Mae, as well as his 15-year-old son Alfred.

Bonner's next stop was Smitty's Drive-In Liquors, where he appeared at 3:14 p.m. Believing he had been short-changed there once, he killed the shop owner, Smitty Sneed, again with a shot in the stomach, and wounded a customer, 58-year-old Duly Oscar Bennett, in the shoulder, before heading towards Liquorama Liquors, where he shot and critically wounded 23-year-old employee Robert L. Smith with a shot in the stomach, and hit 28-year-old Roosevelt D. Jenkins, another employee, in the leg.

A couple of minutes later Bonner barged into the house of his former girlfriend, 22-year-old Diane Lore Andrea, who had taken the side of Vernon Thompson during the argument the day before, and broken up their relationship afterwards. He shot her in the neck with his shotgun, severing her jugular vein and spinal cord. She died instantly.

Chase and arrest

Bonner eluded police until 3:25 p.m. when he was spotted in his car by two patrolling police officers, blocking their way out of an alley. Bonner pointed his shotgun at them and repeatedly pulled the trigger, but when it failed to shoot he threw it away and sped off, while the police officers fired four shots at him and initiated pursuit. When Bonner crashed his Plymouth into the rear of the car of 45-year-old Mary Felton, who had stopped at a traffic light, he jumped out of his own vehicle and into the back seat of hers. Threatening her and her two daughters with his pistol he ordered her to drive.

The scene was observed by security guard Versell Bennett who then took up pursuit in his car and eventually managed to force them to stop. Bennett then left his vehicle armed with his shotgun and opened fire at Bonner, who then shot at him in return. When police finally caught up with Bonner, a shootout ensued in which he was hit five times in his legs and lower body. Though, some officers apparently aimed their fire at Bennett first, mistaking him for the gunman. He was hit twice in the head and shoulders and succumbed to these wounds four days later. Mrs. Felton also suffered minor injuries in the shoulder. At 3:29 p.m. Bonner was taken into custody and brought to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center for treatment.


  • Diane Lore Andrea, 22, Bonner's girlfriend

  • Versell Bennett, 58, security guard, shot by police

  • Raleigh "Butch" Henderson, 33, friend of Bonner

  • Otha Leavitt, 53, friend of Bonner's mother

  • Smitty B. Sneed, 58, owner of Smitty's Drive-In Liquors

  • Jevie D. Thompson, 57

  • Aileen Wells, 13

Trial and conviction

Preliminary hearings for the case opened in July and on August 21 Bonner was formally charged with seven counts of murder, eight counts of assault with deadly weapon and three counts of kidnapping, whereupon he pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity.

On November 13 Bonner changed his mind and pleaded guilty to one count each of first degree murder, second degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon and a month later, on December 17, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

As of January 2011 he is still an inmate at California State Prison in Solano.


6 reported killed in shooting spree by gunman on coast

The New York Times

April 23, 1973

LOS ANGELES, April 22 – A man shot his grandmother dead, according to the authorities, wounded two other persons in an argument at his home today, then went on a shooting rampage that left five others dead and seven wounded.

The man was finally surrounded by the police at an intersection in southwest Los Angeles where they shot and wounded him then took him into custody, offices said.

Two of the nine persons wounded may have been hit by the police in the crossfire exchange at the intersection, Police Lieut. Robert Helder said. The sheriff’s department said that the gunman had been responsible for those shootings as well.

William Ray Bonner, 25 years old, was booked for investigation of murder. He was reported in satisfactory condition with gunshot wounds in the leg, the authorities said. He was taken to the jail ward at U.S.C. County Medical Center.

Among the dead were the wounded man’s girl friend, a male acquaintance and a 12-year-old girl.

Lieutenant Halder said that the gunman, after fatally shooting his grandmother, Otha Levett, 53, and wounding two others at his home, went on a rampage in the predominantly black Lennox area near Los Angeles International Airport.

He stopped at two gas stations, two liquor stores and two other homes – all within a one-square-mile area – shooting people with a .20-guage shotgun, Sheriff’s Deputy Raymond Wedmore said.

"After he was wounded, police officers had to fight him to take him into custody," a police spokesman said.

Deputy said that the gunman fatally shot an acquaintance, Raleigh Henderson, 33, at a gas station; killed Arlene Wells, 12, and wounded one other person at another gas station.

Then, according to the deputy, he killed Smitty B. Sneed, 57, and wounded another person at Sneed’s liquor store. The deputy said that the gunman also wounded one person at another liquor store; killed Jevie D. Thompson, 63, and wounded two persons at Thompson’s residence; and killed his girl friend, Dianne Lore Adrea, 22, at her home.

Two others were wounded but were not immediately identified, the police said.


Rampaging gunman kills 6 and wounds 10

The New Zealand Herald

April 24, 1973

LOS ANGELES - Six people were shot to death and 10 wounded yesterday during what police said was a shooting spree by a 25-year-old gunman who was believed to have known most of his victims. A security guard who tried to halt the fleeing gunman was critically wounded. Police said he may have been hit by police bullets.

Authorities said the one-hour rampage, which began after an argument with one of the man's relatives claimed victims at six different locations in the city. Four of the wounded were in a critical condition.

The gunman, identified as William Bonner, of Los Angeles, was captured in an exchange of gunfire with police after commandeering one vehicle and attempting to steal another, police said. He was taken to hospital, where he was listed in a serious condition with several wounds, including one from a shotgun blast. He was charged with murder.

Officers said Bonner got into an argument with Otha Levitt, aged 53, his grandmother, at his home, then went outside and wounded two teenagers. He then allegedly went back inside and fatally shot the woman.

Police said that in the next hour Bonner held up two liquor stores and two petrol stations, killing and wounding clerks and customers at the various locations.

Among the fatally shot were Smithy Sneed, aged 53, Arlene Wells, aged 13, who was shot in the back, and Raleigh Henderson, aged 33, garage attendant. Dianne Henderson, aged 22, and Jovie Thompson, aged 57, were killed when Bonner forced his way into their homes sometime between or after the robberies, police said.

Officers did not begin pursuing him, however, until he spotted a patrol car in an alley after leaving the woman's residence. He tried to fire a shotgun at them but the weapon was out of ammunition, police said. During a brief chase, Bonner hit another vehicle stopped at a traffic light and allegedly commandeered the car driven by Mary Felton, aged 45, of Inglewood. Her 10 and 12-year-old daughters were also in the car.

Versell Bennett, a security guard, who witnessed the takeover pursued the car and headed it off by swerving in front of it. Bennett got out of his car started shooting at Bonner, who was in the back seat, police said, but the guard was shot twice in the head, perhaps hit in the crossfire from police arriving at the scene. Officers said the wounds may have come from the 28 rounds and one shotgun blast fired by police.

Reports quoted a garage attendant as saying: "He just started shooting." James Morrow, aged 35 said he watched as the gunman entered the station in south-western Los Angeles, asked for Henderson and then fired the fatal shotgun blast.


Suspects pleads insanity

The New York Times

August 23, 1973

TORRANCE, Calif., Aug 29 - William Ray Bonner, 25 years old, accused of an Easter Sunday shooting spree that left seven dead, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, Superior Court Judge Bernard Lawler ordered a psychiatric examination yesterday and set a Nov. 11 trial date.



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